Monday, October 6, 2014

Three More Book Reviews

I'll start with The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman because it was SO GOOD and it's different from the (very similar) other two I'm doing today. Here's the summary from the back of the book, but trust me when I tell you that this isn't quite what this story is about: Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
So I don't really even know how to describe it.  It's just a magical story, it's fabulous. I loved it. It's definitely in the running for Best Book of 2014. Here's what I wrote on Goodreads: Four and a half stars. Four and three quarters. It's *just* a smidge too choppy for all five (from me) but I seriously LOVED this book with all my heart. Gorgeous, haunting, stuck in my head. What more can you ask for?

But after a few months, I'd go ahead and give it all five. Maybe. I dunno. It's hard!! Here's what another reader had to say about it on Goodreads and I think she sort of nailed it: This book was just... wow... I'm still ruminating on it. It's dark and clever and light and terrible and all told from the perspective of the bravest, saddest 7 year old boy I've ever come across. I was afraid to come back to this book after putting it down, and yet I couldn't not turn the page. I have a feeling the myth of the Hempstocks and all that happened on that lane will stay with me for years to come.

I don't really know what else to say except read it. If you liked Night Circus, you will probably love this. Maybe? I don't know. Don't take my word for it, just read this book.

All right, the next two were A LOT alike, which was a pleasant surprise, but also a little disconcerting because it wasn't exactly how I like my SK, and we all know how I feel about change...

But first, The Silkworm by JK. Most people know how much Harry Potter changed my life, and how much I loved the first Cormoran book, Cuckoo's Calling, although for some reason I cannot for the life of me find my review? Weird.  Anyway, here's the back of the book: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives - so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . .

You certainly don't have to read Cuckoo first, but you might as well because it's a little better. I really enjoyed Silkworm, don't get me wrong, I just preferred Cuckoo.  I gave it five stars on Goodreads, but looking back now, I'd say 4.5. It's, of course, impeccably well written, absolutely perfect, and I really loved looking at the publishing world because that's just interesting to me. I love Strike, although I wish his name was Striker, and I love Robin. I think it would have been easier for JK to blow off her boyfriend as a loser who 'doesn't understand' but I really really really love that she didn't- she took the time to make him three dimensional, and to make us understand why Robin was with him.

That sounds dumb, typing it out, but whatever, it made a huge difference for me. She didn't cop out- the did the work and created a character. She created a world. Because she is a god.

And lastly, Mr. Mercedes, by the Master himself, Stephen King. These two came out within a few weeks of each other, and I opted to buy the JK and wait for this one at the library. Please don't ever tell SK if you should happen to meet him. Well Angela bought it like a normal person and read it ahead of me and then texted me over and over and OVER that I needed to read it. And she was correct. Here we go: In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

Now. I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  However, it was not perfect. This was my Goodreads review:

"So it was fantastic because SK is a god. But it was very...not-SK. It's like he's texting JKR and they're discussing Strike and Hodges. And that's NOT a bad thing, at all. But if you're looking for The Stand, this ain't it. But seriously, so SO good. Brady is the creepiest creepo I've read in a LOOOONG time, he makes my skin just crawl. Definitely worth staying up all night to finish in two days. Four and a half stars, and if I didn't love the Stand so much, it'd have five. Seriously, it's good."

And I stand by that. It was fantastic, but it was different, and you'll NEVER convince me that he wasn't influenced by JK. You just won't.

And I have to say that the whole time I was reading this, I was waiting for 'the most terrifying ending King has ever written' because I read that in EW one week...but they were talking about Revival and I got confused. So the ending was a tiny bit of a let down, but that's my fault, not his.  Overall, these were three of the best books I've read this year, absolutely fabulous.  Go read them.

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